After Irma, Florida citrus growers work to rebuild before next hurricane season
LAKELAND (FOX 13) - It appears Florida citrus growers' cries for help have been heard in Washington, D.C.
They have been asking for financial help to get back on their feet after Irma last fall. Now, the federal government is giving them half a billion dollars to do just that.
“Welcome news, even though it has been months and months of waiting,” the CEO of Florida Citrus Mutual, Mike Sparks said.
Irma wiped out half of the citrus and 70 percent of the grapefruit crop this season. That blow came on top of the ongoing problem of citrus greening.
Greening, which has no cure, damages fruit and eventually kills the tree.
“Some growers have run through their credit limits and run through what the banks will loan them, so this is kind of the last shot to save their business,” said Ellis Hunt, of Hunt Brothers Citrus Groves and Management.
Hunt says growers will use the money to re-plant what Irma destroyed, install new irrigation systems, and do whatever else is necessary to keep their operations going.
It will be several months before growers have the money in their hands. By then, we will be in this year’s storm season.
“We are going to pray we’re not going to have another hurricane this season,” said Hunt. “That would be unbelievable.”